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So, When Can We Ditch the Super-Pricey Infant Formula?

By Katie Allison Granju |

Baby G at 11 months. Behold, the cuteness!

I can’t even believe it as I am typing the words out, but sweet Baby G will turn one year old in only three more weeks – on June 27. She’s so incredibly cute right now – crawling, pulling up, babbling, trying to eat with a spoon, and really starting to become a real little person. I am pretty sure she’ll be walking soon.

All of these things are exciting developments, of course, but really, the best thing about her getting close to her first birthday is that apparently, we can soon ditch the uber-expensive infant formula she’s been guzzling for the past 10 months. You remember, the kind that must be made from things like flakes of gold and ground-up unicorn horns and fairy wings? Otherwise, how could it possibly cost so much?

I am pretty sure we’ve been spending between $50-$75 weekly on this special hypoallergenic infant formula for the past 40-plus weeks. Now I’m no math whiz, but even I can see how that’s added up to a rather frightening amount of money.  So the fact that the general medical consensus seems to be that we can now start transitioning her over to regular old old, high fat cow’s milk is appealing.

Jon prepares most of  G’s bottles, even when I am the one doing the feeding, and he’s begin mixing cow’s milk with her formula in the past few weeks. I’ve noticed that she seems less able to sleep when she’s had one of the bottles with milk, and I am worried that the same tummy sensitivities that led to us going with the pricey hypoallergenic formula in the first place may trouble her again now that we are trying to wean her off the formula. Plus, I just read some info from Dr. Sears in which he suggests that parents of formula-fed babies like G hold off on making the switch to regular milk.

So I’m not entirely sure how to make this switch for a baby with a sensitive tummy. How quickly should we try to transition completely over to milk, and should I start giving her supplemental vitamins?  Are some doctors now really suggesting that formula-fed babies stay on formula into the second year?

For those of you who formula-fed your babies, I’d really appreciate it if you would tell me how y’all made this transition from infant formula to cow’s milk, and when.Our pediatrician says we can switch now, but has your baby doctor told you something different? I don’t want to rush it, but I sure would like to get her off the smelly, crazy-expensive cans of Alimentum ASAP.

 

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About Katie Allison Granju

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Katie Allison Granju

Katie Allison Granju is the married mother of five children, ranging in age from toddler to teenager. In addition to blogging for Babble Voices, she also publishes her own blog, Big Good Thing. Katie also enjoys working in her flower garden, riding her bike, and feeding the chickens she keeps in the backyard of her family's large Victorian house. Read bio and latest posts → Read Katie Allison's latest posts →

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40 thoughts on “So, When Can We Ditch the Super-Pricey Infant Formula?

  1. Julie says:

    My daughter was strictly a formula-fed baby, pro-sobee. At 1 year I switched her directly to cows milk. She had diarrhea from it, so I went to the grocery store and bought her the store brand lactose free, vitamin D milk. She drank more of that then she was taking in formula. As she turned 2 years old, we switched her to regular cows milk, and she’s perfectly happy, sleeps through the night, and is pleasant all day. I suggest you try the lactose free milk if you’re worried about going straight to cows milk.

  2. Danielle says:

    We did a gradual switch with baby #1, starting with 1/4 milk to 3/4 formula, then 1/2 and 1/2, etc, starting after her first birthday. Our pediatrician just told us to do the same with baby #2, who will be 1 at the end of August. She said we can start introducing milk around 11 months, but we’ll wait until after her birthday just to be safe. Fortunately, we didn’t have the tummy issues that G has. I do know of a child who was very sensitive, and her parents elected to keep her on formula through age 2 in order to give her the fat but not the lactose. After 2, kids can have lactose free low-fat milk. Perhaps you should try to make the switch very slowly to give her system time to adjust. I wonder if you can investigate milk other than cow’s milk also.

  3. Melissa says:

    Not happy news, but I wasn’t able to take my daughter off Nutramigen until she was almost two. Everytime I tries, she had really sad and heartbreaking tummy issues, and would have difficulty sleeping, wake frequently and then spend the next day miserable.

  4. Shari says:

    Ahhhh…..yes……Alimentum! We had one use that, too! And you’re right, it STINKS! How can they drink something so gross? I don’t get it! LOL My Dr. wasn’t swayed one way or the other about him staying on the formula. We chose to ditch it due to the cost.

    We didn’t switch to regular cow’s milk. We used cow’s milk that was lactose free. That was the problem with our son. At two we did a general switch to regular cow’s milk very slowly.

    I hope this helps and have a great week.

  5. Jessica says:

    My oldest was on Nutramigen and he drank his last bottle the day before his 1st bday (seriously, never asked for one again! However, the binkie lasted till after his 3rd bday, but I digress). We started giving him cow’s milk right away and never had any problems. He drank whole milk till his 2nd birthday and now at 3 1/2 years old drinks 2% and loves it!

  6. FL Mom says:

    Milk isn’t necessary at all, especially for children who have lactose intolerance. If you’re concerned about calcium, milk is neither the only nor the best source: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/calcium-full-story/index.html Cow’s milk is for baby cows, and formula is for infants under 6 months. If G is eating 3 square meals of veg, protein, and starch, she’s getting adequate nutrition and can drink water. Continuing to supplement all day with formula after she’s already eating reasonable amounts of solids is pointless and a waste of your hard-earned money. If she’s not eating food, she needs to learn quickly, and you’re stuck with formula for the time being. If you whittle down to a single, small nighttime bottle, maybe that would be the best of both worlds? I dunno. I know she’s a preemie and all, but formula for 2 years? Overkill. Sounds like that recommendation comes from doctors who are in cahoots with the formula companies.

  7. Rosstwinmom says:

    Can’t help you with the milk issue, but I wanted you to know what my 3 year old said. He walked by and saw this pic. He said, “Cute baby!” I scrolled back to get him a good look, and he asked her name. Then he asked why she was playing with her dress instead of the toys on the floor. And whose fingers are those? So, then I showed him all the beach pics to show him her family. Then we looked at Henry’s pics. He really like the ones with lots of people in them, but he kept asking where the baby was. I think he would like a baby that cute in his house too! ;-)

  8. Clisby says:

    My first was almost entirely formula-fed (Similac, nothing special). I didn’t take her off it entirely until she was about 16 months old, because I wanted to wait until she was eating plenty of other food. (When she turned 1, formula was still 90-95% of her diet – she was not an early adopter of solid food.)

    I would second what a couple of others have said – if you want to try cow’s milk, try lactose-free. From what I’ve heard, babies with sensitive digestion can often handle that better than regular milk. I also agree that she shouldn’t *need* to drink milk, if she’s getting enough nutrition from other sources. However, milk is a pretty easy way to get calcium and vitamin D into a baby. Can she tolerate yogurt, cottage cheese – things like that? What about fortified soy or rice milk? Soy and rice milk (and LF cow’s milk, as far as I know) wouldn’t have the fat of regular cow’s milk, but I seem to remember G’s pretty good about eating solids, so you could make sure she got enough fat in that part of her diet.

  9. Ally says:

    My son was breastfed but had a sensitive tummy that he eventually grew out of. But we had to be cautious with solids, I eliminated some things from my diet when I was nursing him, etc. He was never able to tolerate whole milk. We switched him to soy milk instead, much in the same way as you’re doing with baby G except we just replaced bottles of breastmilk at daycare with bottles of soy until he was just nursing at home. He drank soy milk until he was 2 and then we switched to skim milk and all was well.

    This was perfectly acceptable 5 years ago, I don’t know what the thinking on soy milk is now!!

  10. m.j. says:

    I would ask her doctor before taking any recommendations of not giving her any kind of milk at all. Babies need the high fat content in vitamin d milk for brain development. I’m sure there are ways to supplement though.

  11. JMama says:

    Our dairy and soy allergic 2 year old was breasfed till 20 months (I took dairy and soy out of my diet). We also supplemented with some bottles of nutramigen starting at 10 months. When he turned one, he was mostly drinking enriched almond and rice milk (and sometimes oat milk or hemp milk too). He still gets one before bed bottle of nutramigen. Oddly, he loves it. And his doctor recommends that he keeps it is his diet as supplement, as the other milks are low in protein and calcium. I think at 2.5 we will wean him off this too, but will discuss with the doctor first. When we have tried introducing dairy, even lactose-free, even just in baked goods), boy-o has trouble sleeping, stomach cramps, and then diarrhea. I never thought he would drink any formula at all, let alone for this long. But allergies suck.

  12. clara says:

    I agree with the above poster that milk is never necessary. There are other ways to get fat, protein & calcium. Cows milk is meant to take a baby cow from 90 lbs to 900 lbs in one year, humans can barely digest it. Yes it has vit D & calcium, but we excrete most of it, its too much for us. The dairy industry is pretty powerful and has some serious lobbyists. People all over the world have grown up fine without any cows milk, esp. in Asia. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of milk, its just not nutritionally vital for kids. With my kids I gave them almond or rice milk or just water during the day as they got past 1. I think you could stop the alimentum, but there are cheaper toddler formulas if you still wanted to give her some up to age 2.

  13. Erin says:

    Both of my little ones were weaned to cows milk after they turned 1. However, if Baby G is having cows milk tummy troubles, try goats milk. My brother was allergic to cows milk and his Dr. told my mom to try goats milk (we used the powdered as most stores back then did not carry liquid). He was fine with it.

  14. Shandra says:

    Rice milk is not a substitute for any milk with a good chunk of protein it it. (It also lacks other nutrients.) Rice milk is mostly carbs, which babies eating cereal tend to get plenty of. But I was going to suggest you could try goat’s milk, or if she seems to react go to a less expensive formula.

  15. Julia says:

    We had a hard time getting our formula fed baby off formula — but I switched to the hypoallergenic Target brand around 10 months and it was fine. Then we got off entirely around 2. By then it was just a bottle a night tho. Maybe $13 a month.

    He never took any milk of any kind. Yogurt kid. My 3 other kids are drinking me out of house and home with all that milk!

  16. A.K. says:

    Lactose free milk is a great idea! My oldest son had some trouble switching, so we bought rice milk for 6-8 months before going to cow. We bought it by the case because the local market gave a significant discount.

  17. victoria says:

    My kiddo was on soy formula and we also weaned ASAP at one year — we tried goat’s milk (which she didn’t like) and eventually went to lactose-free milk like many others here. She was a tremendously good eater so we didn’t have her drinking very much milk (maybe 1/2 cup a day?) by the time she was 15 months or so; there were no worries for us that she wasn’t going to get adequate calories, protein, etc.

  18. cath young says:

    Like so many things, it depends on the child. If your C is allergic to cow’s milk, sticking with formula for another year might be the easiest and healthiest thing to do. You can try goat’s milk , rice milk, almond milk and soy along with your own formulas, but if you have a tried and true thing there, it’s probably better to stick with it.

    Most babies in my years with little ones were switched at a year to cow’s milk, and usually we did the switch gradually as Jon is doing. If any allergy signs started to show, then those babies went back to formula for a while longer, with alternative milks tried for the transition.

    My brother’s younger son had a lot of allergies as a little guy, but now at age 5 seems to have outgrown most of them. Still can’t eat eggs outright and has to watch it in terms of anything with egg in it, though he can tolerate small amounts that make it not so difficult to cater to the allergy. Also has some milk intolerance still but again can eat products with milk in them as long as he doesn’t take too much in a day. He drinks almond milk, however, as a drink and that is used around the house for him so that he can have more of a milk quota in other foods. The allergist feels he’ll be fine in a few years. His sister had some allergies too, but milder and now eats everything, but she stayed on breast milk for 4 years which is the gold standard in beating allegies.

  19. Mary says:

    My baby was on Neocate infant formula because had such bad GI issues. At around 13/14 months we tried switching him back to milk and he couldn’t tolerate it. We dabbled around with other various kinds of milk such as hemp milk, coconut milk and soy. Ultimately he drank soy milk until he was two years old. He’s growing and thriving normally and I’m happy to say now at 27 months old he’s tolerating regular cows milk very very well. I’d say we’re issue free now! Good luck with Baby G :)

  20. Liza says:

    My son was on regular formula, but higher calorie — more powder to water ratio as he had failure to thrive and his main source of calories was from formula. They tried feeding him pregistimil at the NICU, but he HATED it — and I tasted it — tasted like vomit and the way road kill smells. :) When he got older, he ate table food; however, when we tried to switch him to whole milk he had major constipation issues and then wouldn’t eat. I swore he’d be on formula forever. I kept him on formula for another few months at home, but he tolerated the amount of whole milk he got at daycare.

  21. Sarah says:

    If I were in your shoes, I would try to transistion first to a partially digested formula (Gentlease) and see how she does- it should be less of a shock to her system, then if that goes well, transition to your milk of choice. It will help cut down your cost some, and it might be easier on her system.
    We went straight from gentlease to cow’s milk, but she had been doing well with yogurt and cheese for a while.

  22. Jen says:

    I tend to agree with Jessica who said that cow’s milk isn’t necessary. We started to switch over my second daughter to cow’s milk, doing the half and half with formula thing that you’re doing, when she was around 11 months. You could tell that she definitely drank less of it. At her one-year appointment her ped said we could make the switch cold turkey (including no more bottles, everything in sippy cups). Honestly, I think it was more of a routine/habit thing for her. She wanted nothing to do with the regular whole milk or the sippy cups for 1-2 months, but we just kept offering it at meals. We even tried putting the whole milk in a bottle and she didn’t want that either (which is what led me to believe it was just a new routine/habit that she had to get used to). Within a short time though she got used to it. Now she’s 16 months and guzzles milk and water non-stop from her sippy cups. She drinks far more whole milk than my first daughter. With both kids I expressed worry to my ped that they wouldn’t like it. Similar to Jessica’s advice, my ped said that cow’s milk is not even necessary. As long as they are eating well-rounded meals and getting all of their nutrients from that, it’s not necessary, especially because there are other ways for them to get calcium – yogurt, cheese, etc. I wouldn’t worry too much about it. I would maybe rule out other factors as contributors to her recent sleep difficulties.

    Oh, and the idea that infant formula should be continued into year two (I know they have the “next level” formula). Complete bull. Absolutely not necessary. I asked our ped about that with my first daughter. She said no way. Give your child a vitamin D supplement and that’s all they need as long as they’re eating well-rounded meals. I thought I read an article that Dr. Sears does paid sponsorships with infant formula companies??

  23. Diana says:

    I second and third those who have indicated that cow’s milk is not necessary to good nutrition. In addition to some of the already suggested alternatives, you might consider goat’s milk. Highly nutritious, good for allergy-sensitive kids and we already know she’ll drink anything if she’ll take that formula! Good luck.

  24. Jen D. says:

    We did our first dairy challenge at 6 months; we jumped in with both feet and were prepared to start right back on the pricy stuff again if need be. The booger had no issues, so we switched directly to the regular formula then whole milk at age 1.

    It really depends on your comfort level. We just gave him a bottle of regular stuff instead of the Ali and monitored his behavior and poops. After a week with no symptoms our checkbook rejoiced and we never looked back! We also gave the finger to the pharmacy who had been doing our compound meds for his reflux, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

  25. Lee says:

    I’m surprised no one has suggested this yet, but goat’s milk is an excellent substitute. It often isn’t that the baby is lactose intolerant, it’s that their little tummies can’t break down the giant cow’s milk proteins (as other posters have pointed out). My daughter (breastfed) didn’t handle yogurt or cow’s milk well at all until she was two. We did feed her goat’s milk and goat’s mild yogurt which went over really well. At two years old, she was able to handle regular milk. Goat’s milk comes in full fat and 2%. I’d really recommend you give that a try instead of cow’s milk as your diluting/transition substance.

  26. Lissa says:

    Be very wary of soy milk. Do the research – just Google “soy milk dangers”. Yes, there are plenty of sites touting the benefits of soy products of all sorts, but take a look at who owns the site – are they selling something with soy?

    My own personal experience with soy (I was using meal replacements that contained a large amount of soy isolate protein) has left me with a jacked up metabolism, thinned hair, fragile nails, skin issues, depression, wild mood swings (poor hubby!), among others … I now try to avoid all things soy, even soybean oil and soy sauce.

    If she realllly wants milk, and cannot tolerate moo juice, try almond milk or coconut milk. But then, that might not be any less expensive than fancy formula …

  27. suburbancorrespondent says:

    If she needed hypoallergenic formula, why would you put her on cow’s milk? I’d try an alternative. It doesn’t necessarily have to be drinkable, right? There’s yogurt (which would work if her troubles stem from lactose intolerance) or cheese. I do know that (due to dairy allergies in my oldest) that we have never drunk any form of milk in our house – so kids can be healthy without it!

  28. Laura says:

    If you can get it, raw dairy milk might be an option – many people who have lactose intolerance can handle raw milk much better than pasteurized. That said, like so many other people are saying, dairy isn’t for everyone. Goat milk might be worth a try, too…

  29. Karen says:

    It seems very unlikely that your baby would be lactose intolerant, since lactose is the sugar in every kind of milk, and babies need milk. If humans became lactose intolerant as infants we’d hardly be as successful a species as we are. Most humans become progressively less tolerant of lactose around the age of weaning (3 years and on). Perhaps she is sensitive to the casein protein, in which case goat’s milk might be more palatable for her.

  30. Beth A. says:

    When my dairy and soy sensitive toddler weaned at 15 months, we gave her rice milk for the calcium and vitamin D and added coconut milk for added fat. It wasn’t ideal, since it had practically no protein, but it was the best choice we had at the time, and we compensated with extra protein in other parts of her diet. These days, I would probably go with hemp milk, which has a good amount of fat and at least some protein, in addition to the calcium and vitamin D.

  31. Kata says:

    My son was formula fed from 4 mths, but no hypo-allergic fancy stuff, just basic simple Aptamil (no idea if you have this in the US, here it is one of the 3 main brands). When he turned 1, I didn’t feel safe giving cowmilk, so he stayed on the formula. Turned out, the creche was giving him cereals with milk from the age of 1, so I learned a few months later, that he is not allergic. :) He stayed on formula for another 12 months, I calculated the price and milk price – it was pretty much the same. A tiny bit more expensive, but I found it easier with the formula. (Less frequent trips to shop, doesn’t go sour as you make it up fresh just before the milk, etc.) After his 2nd b-day I started to mix very slowly milk into his bottle, exchanging 30 mls formula to milk, increasing the units every week by 30 mls. So the change was very slow, his body got used to it, and he didn’t mind the taste – formula is sweet, milk isn’t, he wouldn’t drink the milk first at all, just with the constant diluting. It worked for us. :)

  32. karen says:

    Goat’s milk.

  33. Robyn says:

    Have you guys considered that it might not be the lactose in the milk that is the problem but the milk proteins instead? My daughter was allergic to the proteins in dairy and I found that many people had trouble understanding this for some reason. Lactose free milk does not help babies who have problems with the proteins in dairy. My M was breastfed for an extended time and had no dairy through me or in her diet at all for many years. Obviously the breastfeeding was a great help for her diet, especially as she had health problems, but I found many other sources to provide her with the right foods she needed for optimum health without giving her any dairy. I am not one who thinks cow’s milk is at all necessary for babies or kids, in fact I don’t think it is necessarily good for them at all. I would find your nearest Whole Foods and embrace a clerk–this could be an easy way to find some good choices for gorgeous G that don’t upset her tummy or your budget.

  34. Ginger says:

    My son was formula fed (hypoallergenic formula) beginning at age 4 months. He stayed on the formula until 18 months……he had the same issues with cow’s milk that he did with the non-hypoallergenic formula. I think that if you or baby can’t breastfeed, staying on formula past one year makes sense…..well, unfortunately, not financial sense, but health sense…..

  35. Jenny says:

    I think the year 2 formula is a racket by the drug companies. I’ll buy rear facing for year 2, but I’ll pass on formula. If G is foraging for food or other objects to ingest under the furniture then I think that is a sign that little girlfriend wants more solids. My son was on Similac Isomil Soy Formula for a year. We transitioned, just like you, at one year to cows milk. We’d already tested the waters with baby yogurt, so we knew he could tolerate the dairy products. When we made the transition we went cold turkey on bottles and pacifiers within the same month. Looking back, the only thing I might have done differently is waited to remove the pacifier until after an airplane trip. Dude… when you can’t chew gum and won’t suck on a pacifier because it’s not the old one… a sippy just won’t do.

  36. s.a. says:

    I recommend goat’s milk as well. It is easier for babies’ guts to break down the proteins.
    We tried cow’s milk after my son was weaned, it makes him very mucousy and unhappy. As previously mentioned, the issue is the protein in the milk; he has no issues with yogurt or cheese, because the proteins are partially broken down.

    Since Alimentum is specifically for protein sensitive babies, if i were you I would try mixing some goat’s milk with the formula and see how that flies. If you have a Trader Joe’s nearby they have the best prices on goat’s milk in my experience.

  37. Claire R says:

    My evidence is 23 years old. I know thinking has changed. This I can say without fear of being wrong: that baby is among the most adorable children on the planet!

  38. Liz says:

    After a lot of research and experimentation, we found coconut milk and almond milk to be best, with healthy fats, no added sugars and fortified with calcium and Vit D and all the other stuff. Very tasty, the adults drink it also. Soy and Rice milks are iffy, personally I think they are garbage for babies and kids.

  39. Tasha / To-Fu says:

    With dairy being such an allergy/irritant for so many people–especially little ones–these days, I’d probably skip the cow’s milk and go straight to goat, hemp, or coconut. All those are rich in fats and vitamins and protein. There is a lot of good evidence these days for delaying cow’s milk or not giving it at all.

    If all else fails, wouldn’t water in addition to a healthy, diverse food diet be pretty great?

  40. Tasha / To-Fu says:

    P.S. Watch out for sugar! Some of the milks folks are mentioning have added sugar, which obviously isn’t really great. :)

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